The 15th International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards is rocking this scenic coastal town in Florida with Hindi cinema’s new generation of stars lending glamour to its biggest celebration outside India. The cream of Bollywood is making a later appearance due to elections back home.
This is the first time the awards are being held in the U.S. and it is expected to bring in tourism and business opportunities at the ongoing FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum. At the IIFA Expo here everything from samosas to Indian bridal wear to properties in DelhiNCR is on sale.
At the media curtain raiser, Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, said, “The people of Florida are proud to be your host, and we look forward to showcasing the hospitality that makes the sunshine state the world’s travel destination”.
The local media is sitting up and taking notice. An editorial in The Tampa Tribune said the awards “will push the state’s film industry”. The event is expected to attract more than 25000 visitors, generate $30 million in economic activity and, significantly, highlight the region as a location for Bollywood films, the editorial observed.
The interest is palpable on the ground as around 4,000 people turned up to watch Bollywood Stomp, the opening gig of the four-day event, where the only top Bollywood celebrity on show was Anil Kapoor. Allen Blaire, a local businessman, really got into the mood of the event. “First I watched it from my 15th floor apartment but then I realised that I should come down and embrace the electric mood. America is an amalgamation of different cultures. I am a third-generation Irishman and I feel Bollywood could well be the new wave that I will like to embrace,” he said.
The awards were essentially meant to engage the Indian Diaspora, but Bollywood doesn’t seem to be pandering to the NRI audience. “It is not that Indian film makers have turned completely away from the NRI audience,” producer-director Ramesh Sippy told the The Hindu, “Only the way to engage with the Diaspora has changed. Take Queen, the latest hit from Bollywood. Many Indians living abroad would have identified with the kind of obstacles the girl faces when she moves out of India”. The creative association between the two countries was on display when Anupam Kher’s short documentary I Went Shopping for Robert De Niro premiered on the opening day. Two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey is scheduled to conduct an acting workshop and John Travolta will turn up on Saturday with Priyanka Chopra to address the media.